The Child Poverty Monitor report, issued by Children’s Commissioner Dr. Russell Wills, shows that one in four New Zealand children are living in poverty, and that around 180,000 children are living in households experiencing material hardship.
The report also notes large increases in hospitalisations for respiratory illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis. These are illnesses often associated with poverty.
But Prime Minister John Key says his government is committed to improving the lives of children.
“I believe the children are our future,” said Mr Key.
“Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier. Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be,” said the Prime Minister.
The government was working hard with a number of agencies to tackle the child poverty issue, but it remained the responsibility of parents to feed and clothe their children, said Mr Key.
“Everybody’s searching for a hero,” he said. “People need someone to look up to. I never found anyone who fulfilled my needs, a lonely place to be, and so I learned to depend on me.”
The focus of the Child Poverty Monitor report was overly negative, said Mr Key. The report lacked balance, he claimed, because it failed to take into account major improvements in the lives of many children, such as those residing in affluent Auckland suburbs like Herne Bay and Epsom.
Key acknowledged that work still needed to be done to improve living standards. However, he rejected calls by Labour and the Greens to put more resources into solving the problem of child poverty.
“I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadow,” said Key.
If I fail, if I succeed, at least I’ll live as I believe. No matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity.”
When asked how he could be so confident that the problem was under control, despite growing levels of income inequality, Key said “because the greatest love of all is happening to me. I found the greatest love of all inside of me.”
The Prime Minister addressed criticism that his government was only interested in maintaining the wealth and privileges of a small group of affluent people, of which he happens to be one.
“The greatest love of all is easy to achieve,” said Mr Key.
“Learning to love yourself it is the greatest love of all.”